The Silent Voice Within

Intuition and The Science of Decision making

How many times have you come to a critical juncture in your life and had to make a decision? And how many times have those decisions been the right ones?

By right decision, I refer to those that you don't regret or better still, rejoice in the fact that you had made it. The Scientists will have us believe that Decision-making is a function of the brain and is due to wired (either hardwired or neuroplastic) logic rules within.

Anatomy of a Decision

Let's see how we would make a decision under a variety of conditions —

  • Assess a result for a set of conditions and make a decision that would seem best in alignment with our long-term (or short-term) goals
  • Emotionally react to a situation and decide to act in a certain way
  • Listen to someone else's (whom ideally we respect) advice and then decide to follow the directions therein.
  • Flip a coin
  • Follow our Instinct

In all of the cases where we use our rational faculty in the process of decision making, we rely on the following entities —

  • A database of experiences and a map of their results (there doesn't have to be one-to-one correlation with present situation, but the general trend of the situation might match one of the experiences in our database)
  • A set of rules that define what is a desirable outcome and what is undesirable (we often have these ranked by degree of desirability)
  • An ability to sub-divide any given situation (almost always unconsciously) to a combination of smaller sub-events/scenarios that can be correlated with one of the many experiences mapped in our memory)

{sidebar id=22}So, after weighing our "options" and analyzing the situation, a decision is made based on what we perceive as being desirable. Most of times this system works, but also in many cases it goes against the grain of natural laws (I don't mean laws of Physics, but Psycho-spiritual laws).

Natural Law — The Rule of Nature

The nature of things is to follow a path of imbalance moving towards balance. That is how nature operates — always out of balance and always trying to establish equilibrium. Everything we observe follows this law. So do we human beings, despite all our artificialities. There is imbalance in our societies, there is imbalance in our intellectual faculties, there is imbalance in our physiology. The lowest common denominator is Imbalance and the tendency is to try to attain balance.

Under ideal conditions, we should all be trying to attain balance in everything we do and everything in our lives. But do we?

Is the quest for "bigger, better, faster" and "more, more and yet some more" (material possessions) really an attempt to gain equilibrium? I think not! We crave for more (of what we already have), because we have forgotten this basic natural law — "Imbalance is quintessential and trying to gain equilibrium is it's only answer".

Okay, so at this juncture, the dear reader might wondering, what is the relation between Decision making and Natural Law? I will address that now, without further ado…

Intuition — The repressed faculty

So, with all our rationalization-fetish, in an increasingly left-brained world, we come across this little voice, that seems to whisper to us from time to time.

"I want a brand new car…I want that really cool BMW5-series, and I make a reasonable amount of money", but a little voice in your head says "do you really need it?"

Something tells you that it is not a good idea to buy that car (a deep, visceral reaction). But you rationalize and suppress that feeling. You buy the car and within a month, something terrible happens while driving. That little voice was intuition and it was warning you against buying that car.

Well, that might have not been an apt example, so here's another one.

You are dissatisfied at work and you start interviewing. You get what seems like a very good offer, getting you that pay-hike that you always wanted and seems like an absolute panacea.

But somehow, something inside of you seems to indicate that taking this job is not a good idea. You take it despite the warnings, since rationally there is no reason why this job is bad for you — more money, better position, etc. Two weeks into the job, you realize it is a job from hell and regret not having followed your "Instinct".

Well, that "instinct" too was your intuition (this particular anecdote was from a personal experience). We have, with out "science and rationality" obsession, successfully managed to disarm a very critical faculty that was (and still is) very essential for our progress (especially in the psycho-spiritual realm). The Ancients believed that if one is open and receptive, he/she will get "signs" (yeah, like in the movie by M Night Shyamalan). These aren't necessarily signs from an external entity, but our own deep and sub-conscious understanding of the Natural law. Somewhere, somehow, we might be violating that and thus the warning.

Let me narrate another interesting anecdote.

I was on a new job and was asked to perform certain System Maintenance tasks ( which I spent a long time studying and analyzing). One friday, per my Change Calendar, I was to undertake the work. By all logical means, there was no scope for mistake, since it was such a meticulously studied and planned activity. However, as I started working on the systems, a deep and strong feeling started inside — something was telling me to stop!

I fought the feeling, and continued to do the activity as planned (I was also getting pressure from my supervisor about it constantly). As I rolled down the list of systems, the feeling grew stronger and stronger. I stopped for a while to rationalize the situation. I told myself — "Look, you've done everything to ensure there are no mistakes, double-checked and triple-checked your data. You are just being paranoid and careful because you're in a new environment. Just get done with it!". And so, I finished the activity, double-checked on the system again and then left for the weekend.

When I was driving in the following monday, I got that feeling of foreboding again. I entered the office and saw all my colleagues had a very serious and intense look. Apparently, after running my changes, even though everything had checked out fine, a few hours hence, all the systems I worked on crashed. These were systems that did huge volume of transactions everyday (amounting to literally tens of millions of dollars a day). It took about 24 hours to recover from that incident. Upon analysis, it was discovered that one of the layers of software that we have to work with on the systems didn't refresh itself automatically and was reporting incorrect data when the analysis was done.

This was by far the most intense intuition I've had about anything work-related. I try and follow these "feelings" I get ever since. But still, our conditioning in rationality is so complete, that I ignore these feelings about 50% of the times (and usually regret the decision I made).

The point I'm trying to make here is this — we need to start listening to that little voice in our heads again. It is a friend and a guide — and we shouldn't ignore it. How it all ties in with Natural law, I don't know — I only know that it does (my intuition tells me).

I would be interested in learning more about the readers' experiences in this matter as well.

Thanks for reading and hopefully leaving your thoughts behind as well.

Rudra

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